February 24, 2013

A PR to start my 2013 running

I ran my first race of 2013 on Saturday - the Snow Joke Half Marathon around Seeley Lake - and set a PR in the process.

I've realized that the Snow Joke is the only road half marathon I run, but being in February it isn't necessarily the fastest around. The first 5 1/2 miles and last half mile are along a highway, which usually is mostly clear and wet, but the seven miles around the back of the lake are on a road covered with a mix of slush, packed snow and ice.

That said, my finish time was 1 hour, 39 minutes and 31 seconds - more than two minutes faster than my previous half marathon best. It was good enough for 63rd place out of 594 total runners and 36th out of 139 in the men's 16-39 division. Here's the finish line video.

I plan to run at least a couple of more races, sticking with last year's theme of picking some of the more interesting ones. I'll probably do 11 Miles to Paradise - a trail race along the Clark Fork River - again, and would like to try the 50K or 30K in the Trail Rail Run on old railroad beds between Mullan, Idaho, and St. Regis.

February 7, 2013

Snowshoeing the Bitterroot's Blodgett Canyon


It's been a while since we've been snowshoeing, so last weekend we decided to grab our gear and go to Blodgett Canyon in the Bitterroot Mountains.

While the trail up the canyon is quite popular, we encountered only one other person a short distance from the trailhead at the end of the day, likely because it was Super Bowl Sunday.


We started out in our boots, hiking up the south side of the canyon though a recovering burn area with a mix of young green trees and taller survivors and snags. About half a mile up, we came across a moose in the trees along the trail - fortunately, Belle didn't notice and Josey yipped a couple of times but didn't approach.

After passing the last footprints in the most recent snow - about a mile up the trail, just beyond a wide pool where the creek bends - we decided the powder was deep enough to strap on our snowshoes.

From there, we continued upward, into and out of trees, and past the cascading creek and snow-covered boulder fields. While sunlight lit up the spires on the north side of the canyon, the trail remained in the shadow of the south wall all day. While we saw plenty of more moose tracks, we didn't come across another animal.

At three miles, we crossed the bridge to the north side of the creek, then found some sun a short distance later where the canyon widens, flattens and reaches a boulder field. After a bite to eat and some "family" pictures with the dogs - hopefully, worthy of next year's Christmas card - we turned around and made our way down the canyon.


See more pictures from Blodgett Canyon here.

Distance: About 7 miles round trip, turning around about half a mile past the bridge over Blodgett Creek. (Trail continues).

Trailhead: From U.S. Highway 93 just north of Hamilton, turn west onto Bowman Road, drive about three-quarters of a mile and turn south on Ricketts Road. After about 1 3/4 miles, the road turns west and becomes Blodgett Camp Road. Continue about 4 1/4 miles to the trailhead.

February 5, 2013

Skiing with Josey at Lubrecht Forest


One of our favorite winter activities is cross-country skiing with our dogs, and we recently took Josey on her first real outing.

Only a handful of official cross-country ski trails in the area allow dogs, and one of our favorites is the University of Montana's Lubrecht Experimental Forest, east of Missoula. Set in the Garnet Mountains, Lubrecht has a variety of trails that are maintained by the Missoula Nordic Ski Club, allowing you to piece together routes of most any length.


As is our habit, we set out shortly after waking up and arrived at the trailhead when only a few cars are parked in the lot. Combining the C and D trails gave us a loop of about 6 miles and got us back to the car as the parking lot is filling up. This beginner and intermediate circuit travels counterclockwise through the forest starting to the northeast, with some short climbs, smooth downhill glides and occasional sunny clearings.


Josey started out all over the place - not understanding that she should pace herself, as Belle has learned - but eventually settled in alongside us as she lost energy. Back at the car, we had our fill of frosty forest air and a couple of tired dogs.

See more pictures from Lubrecht here.

Distance: Loop about 6 miles.

Trailhead: From Missoula, the Lubrecht Experimental forest is 5 miles east on Interstate 90 to Bonner, then 26 miles east on Highway 200.